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Why Clyde Drexler’s most memorable moment of his career was “getting to college and becoming a college student"

In an era where college academics sometimes get placed behind college athletics, Drexler provides a refreshing take on how important attending college was for him and his career
Why Clyde Drexler’s most memorable moment of his career was “getting to college and becoming a college student

Clyde Drexler made a name for himself in a Houston Cougars jersey before his NBA career took off

Clyde Drexler accomplished a lot throughout his HOF basketball career. During college, he participated in two NCAA Final Fours, was a 10-time NBA All-Star, and won an NBA Championship and Olympic Gold Medal. It’s not a surprise that Drexler is considered one of the best shooting guards of all time.

“Clyde the Glide” did quite a lot throughout his career, in which he started as a skilled finisher at the rim before evolving into one of the best all-around players of his era. For all the accomplishments, though, it may be tough to sort through them and find the one that means the most to you. And for Drexler, the most memorable moment of his career is something that didn’t even take place on the court.

Clyde Drexler didn’t take making it to college for granted

College is often a defining moment of basketball players’ careers, as it often determines whether or not you could pursue a career in the sport at the next level. Drexler wound up at Houston for his collegiate career, where he formed a friendship with another NBA legend, Hakeem Olajuwon. And while playing basketball was essential to Drexler, it wasn’t lost on him that he had found the opportunity in front of himself to attend college.

“Getting to college and becoming a college student, that was meaningful to me. Not many people from my family had obtained a college degree at that time, so that was a first meaningful step.” Clyde Drexler, ABC13

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Alongside Hakeem, Drexler and the rest of the players on the Cougars squad were also given the name Phi Slama Jama. Unlike the standard college-level basketball at the time that was based on fundamentals and principles founded by John Wooden, the concept behind the Phi Slama Jama squad was the complete opposite. It was a playground-influenced style of basketball that viewed dunking as a high-percentage shoot that was very much encouraged. Having a young and super athletic Hakeem and Drexler on that squad, you can probably understand why this team was known for its showtime type of basketball that involved quite a few impressive dunks in every game.

Some college athletes may regard their academic responsibilities as secondary to their sport of choice regardless of their sport. If you think you can make a career in that sport, it makes sense. But Drexler realized the opportunity he had on his hands because of basketball to pursue an education, which he notes not many other people in his family had a chance to follow. And even though he ended up declaring for the NBA Draft after his junior season, it’s clear the opportunity to attend college was something Drexler appreciated.

Clyde Drexler’s perspective on his career is unique

It’s telling that, despite all the accomplishments mentioned earlier on, Drexler’s first instinct was to talk about his college days when asked about his basketball career. After all, they did prove to play a huge hand in his NBA career, too, as he partnered with his college teammate Olajuwon to win the 1995 NBA Finals with the Houston Rockets. But most probably figured all the All-Star appearances or playoff appearances would rank higher than just attending college.

Yet, for the laundry list of accolades Drexler picked up during his basketball career, many of them probably don’t come without his three-year stint in college with Houston. And that’s what makes Drexler’s perspective on his career somewhat unique. Many players would have taken the opportunity to focus on the peak of their career, which could have been Drexler’s championship ring from 1995. Instead, he took the time to focus on his roots and how they impacted the peak of his career.

College also proved to be a vital stepping stone for Drexler on the court. He met Olajuwon during his time at Houston, and they quickly developed into a dynamic duo that helped Houston make some deep runs in the NCAA March Madness tournament. Of course, they would also team up towards the end of Drexler’s career with the Rockets in the NBA, which helped Drexler earn his only championship ring.

Drexler became famous for his flashy dunks and finishes on the court, but also because of his easygoing and humble demeanor off the court, and that has stuck with him to this day. “Clyde the Glide” is a legend today because of his accomplishments on the court, but without the opportunity to attend college, who knows how his career would have panned out. 

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